DUBAI – Expo 2020 Dubai World Arabic Language Day celebrated the richness and history of the language as well as the challenges it faces in a globalised and fast-moving society.
‘The Future of the Arabic Language: A Bridge Between Civilisations’ conference at Terra Auditorium in the Sustainability Pavilion, highlighted the language’s significance in science, literature, art and culture, and storytelling.
His Excellency Mr Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of the League of Arab States saidthe Arabic language has contributed greatly to human civilisations, and future generations must learn about its importance. Governments, academic institutions, and intellectuals are being urged to preserve the language and improve teaching methods.
HE Mr Ahmed Aboul Gheit said: “It is difficult to talk about a new renaissance of the Arabic language without addressing the problem, which is that mastering other languages is often the only gateway available to young people to find out the latest developments in human civilisation.
“The Arabic language will be fine as long as its speakers are aware of its merits and capabilities, preserve its heritage and message, believe in its role and status, and are convinced of the importance of improving it and enhancing its openness to global cultures.”
Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, highlighted how the UAE has spearheaded dozens of initiatives to promote the Arabic language and encourage its use among Arab youth, who have had to become multilingual in an increasingly globalised world.
Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, said: “The UAE has always been a destination for the intersection of cultures, a platform for knowledgeable ideas, and a focal point for creativity and innovation. The UAE’s leadership has always paid great attention to the Arabic language, and has launched dozens of initiatives to support, develop, and promote our language through intellectual, scientific, regional and global paths. Our language today faces several challenges, but the solutions to restore our Arabic language to its glory and status are easily accessible with the combined efforts of all of our governments and societies.”
A key challenge identified by some of the speakers is the need to promote the language more within schools. As parents across the region continue to favour placing their children in private, international schools where Arabic lessons are limited, they risk raising children who no longer know how to speak in their mother tongue, according to Dr Hanada Taha Thomure, Endowed Chair Professor of Arabic Language at Zayed University.
Dr Hanada Taha Thomure said: “When you enter international private schools, you often do not find anything on the papers or the walls written in Arabic. You find a sign that says ‘Principal’s Office’ in English, but no Arabic sign displayed above it. This sends a hidden message [to Arab students], which is ‘Your language is not important. Your language is not welcome here.’ What we need to tell private schools and what must be a part of their policy is that the Arabic language, modern education, and quality education are inseparable.”
Arab youth should not have to choose between receiving quality education and learning Arabic, she added.
World Arabic Language Day has been celebrated every year on 18 December since 2012 – when the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Arabic as the sixth official language of the organisation. Arabic is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world, and is used daily by more than 400 million people across the globe.